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Durham University

Institute of Advanced Study

Life of the Frontier

Dr Andrew D. Burridge (Geography)

Dr Ben Campbell (Anthropology)

Dr Paul Denny (Biological Sciences)

Dr John Donaldson (Geography)

Dr Sam Hillyard (Sociology)

Professor Richard Hingley (Archaeology)

Dr Cherry Leonardi (History)

Professor David Moon (History)

Dr Dave Petts (Archaeology)

Professor Martin Pratt (International Boundaries Research Unit/Geography)

Dr Ed Welch (Modern Languages and Cultures)


Details of the Frontiers Theme and Events for 2011-12 

The 'Life of the Frontier' programme brings together related research interests in Durham, creating a unique and innovative cross-disciplinary cluster of research skills, and offering a structure for a productive and sustained inter-disciplinary conversation. It involves a wider group of scholars in north-east England and Scotland who share this engagement with the theories and practice of frontiers, whilst also inviting other international visitors to Durham to help to create an international context for these discussions. 

We seek to forge new understandings of frontiers and borders, by working across the boundaries between a variety of academic disciplines and building on key strengths in Durham. Relevant areas of current interest include studies of: international borderlands, the materiality of frontiers as liminal spaces and the genealogy of frontiers.

The theme of frontiers brings together multiple research strengths at Durham University. The International Boundaries Research Unit is a leading international centre for work on the definition and management of current frontiers. The recent interdisciplinary AHRC-funded project on Hadrian's Wall, run between Archaeology and Geography, has re-established Durham's reputation as the centre for studies on the Roman frontier in Britain. An established research interest in the Department of History on medieval frontiers in Europe has recently been complemented by new work on the history of internal boundaries and international borders in Sudan; and in the Department for Modern Languages and Cultures there is current research on the cultural and political frontier between France and Algeria, which has been so important to both countries. Colleagues in Anthropology and Archaeology are working on hunter-gatherer interactions across boundaries. The School of Applied Social Sciences is working alongside Education on issues linked to the cultural imagination of rurality and boundaries in English village communities.

These interests build partly on particular regional resources: the location of the Hadrian's Wall World Heritage Site, the presence of the early medieval border monasteries of Jarrow and Monkwearmouth and the long history of the border relations between England and Scotland, including reivers and 'debatable lands', makes Durham a natural geographical location for an international and cross-disciplinary focus on frontiers. But the themes defined within this programme also show how Durham scholarship looks out to, and engages with, a wider world.

During the course of 2011-2012, the 'Life of the Frontier' group will hold the following events:

26 October 2011: Workshop on Frontier Materialities 

What is the life-cycle of the frontier? How do they come into being or crystallize? What are the manifestations of frontiers, both material and non-material? How useful are approaches to genealogy and biography in understanding frontiers and boundaries? What turns frontiers into barriers? How can we challenge frontier knowledge? What is the nature of metaphor in defining frontiers and borders in the social sciences, sciences and humanities? What are the interconnections and disconnections between these fields?

25 January 2012: Workshop on Debatable Lands

'debatable lands ... are territories disputed between established power groups, yet struggling for definition, and ... generalizing their own codes' (C. Lamont and M. Rossington 2007 Romanticisms Debatable Lands, Palgrave, 4). This theme feeds into how frontiers exist as regions of interaction and transformation. What is the significance of crossing-points? What characterizes the variable biopolitics of frontiers? How do frontiers operate as transglobal heritage?

21-22 March 2012: Frontiers Conference

The conference is intended to develop and publicise the theme of frontiers more widely in Durham, the region and the UK.   We also aim to produce a publication from the theme and will develop our ideas for this over the next few months, but the main aim is to pursue a number of grant applications that link the research interests of the group together.

Conference Booking Page